Sunday, March 24, 2013

How to make old paneling look like drywall

 

panelingtodrywall

We’ve all probably seen the paneling that was popular in the 60s and 70s…the big sheets of paneling with fake “grooves” in them that can be any number of wood-like colors (or not!).  We were lucky enough to have five rooms in our house with this type of paneling in it.  (And I say lucky very sarcastically.)  I painted right over the paneling in three of those rooms but of course you can still see the grooves in the paneling and while that doesn’t look bad, it still looks like paneling.  And maybe you want your wall to look like drywall but aren’t able to tear it all down and put in drywall right now!  That was what happened to me a few years ago. 

Before we completely gutted the kitchen I had an interim solution for the existing paneling:  I filled in those fake grooves and painted right over that.  And guess what, it worked great!  You had to look very closely to realize that it wasn’t plaster or drywall.  (And really, who would come to your house and scrutinize it so carefully?)

Back before I was going to do this, I was looking around on the web trying to find out if others had done this and how it had held up.  I found numerous how-tos for painting the paneling, but nothing really for smoothing out the paneling.  I thought maybe others might benefit from my experience with this.  Keep in mind, my paneling may have been different than what you have and maybe we are less or more hard on our walls.  If your paneling is not firmly attached to the wall behind it the results may not be as good.  But, this is what worked for me!

Here is what I used for this project:

  • Stain blocking primer
  • Joint compound (I used Sheetrock All Purpose Joint Compound)
  • Sanding blocks
  • Drywall trowel or knife

I started by priming all the grooves with a regular latex primer.  (I think I used Zinzzer stain blocking primer.)  Stain blocking is important because of the wood behind it.  I know I didn’t want the stain on my paneled walls seeping through my new paint job!  I used primer on the grooves first because I had read that it would help to adhere the joint compound (aka drywall mud in our house) to the paneling. I didn’t want any drywall mud cracking and popping out of the groove so I wanted to try anything that might help minimize that.   I really don’t know if this made a huge difference, but this is what I did and it worked well so I’m including this step. 

You can see this step here:

IMG_5746 (Sorry for the horrible quality photo, but this is the best picture I have of this from way back when I did it.)

You can see it is pretty simple.  Just paint the grooves, because you will have to prime everything again after you fill the grooves with drywall mud. 

Next, take the drywall trowel and smooth drywall mud down the groove from top to bottom.  I usually took a couple of passes diagonally too just to make sure the mud is pressed firmly in the groove and uniform.  I went over the whole wall like this, only filling in the grooves. 

Then, I waited a day until the drywall mud was dry.  I took the sanding block and sanded down the areas that I had applied the drywall mud to until the filled groove was flush with the surface of the paneling.  (Basically I just sanded until I was hitting the paneling on either side of the groove so everything was smooth.)  There were a few places that were too low due to the drywall mud shrinking so I had to go over those places with mud again and let dry and sand again too. 

I wiped the walls down with a damp rag to remove all the drywall dust, then I primed the whole wall.  After that was dry, I painted with regular paint.  And voila!  It looked like drywall! 

IMG_5836 

In the two+ years we lived with our “drywall” paneled walls, we have had no complaints.  No compound popping out of the grooves, no cracking, nothing.  It worked great!  We did finally gut the kitchen and completely remodel but not because of the walls.  I actually did this on our entryway too at the same time and those walls are still going strong today.  You would never know they were paneling.  Here is a picture of that wall tonight:

paneleddrywall

If you have a paneled wall that you don’t like and you aren’t able to put in drywall right now, try this!  A few days’ work, and your wall will look 100 times better. 

Hope that helps!

Liz

21 comments:

  1. Wow, huge difference! I know that musta been a TON of work but it looks amazing!

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    1. Let's just say I was very very motivated. :). Plus I had one of my sisters to help me out.
      Thanks for stopping by Kelly!

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  2. This is so cool! We had the awful paneling in our dining room but had it replaced before we moved in. There's still some in our laundry room, though! I hope someday to try this technique out.

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    1. This would go quickly in a smaller room. Yay that you already replaced some of it!

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  3. Im actually doing this now except with spackling. It dries quick. It doesnt look as great as yours but it sure beats the heck out of that old panelling, nice blog

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    1. Yep, it sure beats that dark old paneling!

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  4. What if the wood paneling has already been painted over? Does this matter at all or will the same process work on it?

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    1. It shouldn't matter at all. In fact, we painted (primed) the grooves first to make sure the drywall compound would stick well. The same process should work fine!

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  5. Elizabeth,
    I am looking to renovate my basement (covered in paneling), but I want to keep the bottom half to mimic a wainscoting effect. My question to you: how much compound did you use and how big of a space did you reno?

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    1. Hi Jessica! The kitchen was an odd shape and since we don't live there anymore I can't measure it for you, but to give you a general idea there were 4 good sized walls in there that we did, and then a few small walls for the back entry area. We used less than a gallon of compound. We tried to make sure to only get it in the grooves so we wouldn't have as much sanding to do after it dried to make it smooth (and also so we didn't have to use much compound). It took my sister and I two days to do it, but it made such an amazing difference it was so well worth it!
      What a great idea to keep the bottom half paneled-looking to mimic wainscoting! Let me know how it works for you, I would love to see pictures!

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  6. Wow, thank you very much! We are getting a home that has a LOT of wood paneling. Ugh! But this should definitely help my husband and I with the room we want to use for our son's nursery. Thank you!

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    1. Oh I hear you on the paneling...our previous home (the one I wrote about in this post) had SO much paneling...it was in all the bedrooms too! I'm sure you'll be able to turn that dark paneled room in to a sweet nursery. : )

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  7. Wow you did an excellent job. Question: do you have to wait until the primer dries before applying the dry mud? and did you sand the paneling? iI read that you should sand the paneling otherwise the paint will slide off so I'm wondering if you had to sand all the paneling or just between the grooves.

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    1. Yep, you do have to wait until the primer dries completely before applying the (wet) mud, otherwise it won't bond as well. We didn't actually sand the grooves of the paneling. I did sand the paneling lightly (very lightly, I basically just quickly ran the sanding block over the paneling section by section. I don't think I spent more than 15 minutes on that part...I figured the primer would do most of that work for me, and it did.
      I hope your project turns out well!

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  8. Did you use the same primer to prime the walls after the mud wall was dry?

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    1. Yes, I used the same primer before mudding and after. Hope that helps!

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    2. Yes it does! Thanks a lot!! I cant wait to start this DIY project

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  9. Forgive my ignorance b/c I don't have any experience in this area, but do you think that doing it this way vs. removing the paneling and replacing it with sheetrock saved you a lot of time...or was it more financial savings?

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    1. Since we eventually went on to completely gut this kitchen and put up new drywall, I can tell you that putting up new drywall was most definitely a much bigger job both in time and financial outlay. One of the reasons for that was because behind the paneling was old plaster that was in poor shape so we had to remove all of that plus the lath to get to the studs in order to put in new drywall.

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  10. Thanks so much for posting this! I have an older mobile home (38 years), with multiple surfaces, mainly paneling (bedrooms are previously drywalled, bathroom/kitchen have painted over smooth paneling), and needed help on my hall/living room. The hall is completely original wood paneling, and the living room has had the paneling painted over. All others only talked about unpainted paneling, so this helps IMMENSELY! I SO want smooth walls, as I'm not looking for a "cottage" look, or it still looking "trailer" inside.

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    1. I'm so glad this post was helpful Paul! I hope your project goes smoothly : )

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I look forward to hearing from you!